August 23, 2011

On the road

When you tell people that you're going to compete in the Maralal International Camel Derby, the response you get is overwhelmingly, "You're going to do what?" Followed by either, "That's awesome!" or "Why??"

And it IS awesome, although I can't specifically point to why. It's camels! It's dirt! It's camping in tents! It's more camels and lots more dirt! It's beautiful Samburu colors in the middle of the desert:

It's also blisters on your fingers and riding 10k on a burlap sack. It's warm $2.00 beers from a make-shift tent with chickens sitting beside you. It's children who follow you around with face-paint and teenagers who just laugh and laugh and laugh to see the Mzungus on camels. It's label-making "camel race-lady" magic:

No, this isn't my trophy, sadly enough. My first camel (in an act of foreshadowing, perhaps) refused to walk even as far as the starting line. My second camel took me on a leisurely stroll through the landscape of northern Kenya and downtown Maralal, moseying us into an uncontested last place out of 40 or so competitors.

How slow were we going? We were going so slow that the camel in front of us (the penultimate camel, if you will) was being pushed from behind by his handler. Pushed. And he was beating us. But we overtook a few people with saddle malfunctions in the home stretch and ended up crossing the finish line in a solid 4th-to-last place.

But a wise friend recently reminded me, "Don't forget to travel" and, as such, I must note that a majority of the weekend was spent on a bus. An itty-bitty squishy bus with all of our possessions strapped onto the roof with a tarp. A bus that went "kaTHUNK... eeeeeeeeee... kaTHUNK.... oooohhhhhggg gmmggzzw," and spent much of each 10 hour trip tilted at a 45-degree angle to the left. The pictures below reflect the real travel.

The time when our bus got stuck in the mud trying to ford a miniature lake in the road, when we all got out to lighten the load and examined mosquito larvae in puddles until a truck with a rope came by to tow us out:

When we saw zebras grazing to our right:

When we saw zebras grazing to our left:

Funny lookin' Dr. Seuss trees (Agave):

And trees regal in the sunset:

When we finally understood where the "kaTHUNK.... oooohhhhhggg gmmggzzw" sound was coming from:

When we stopped in town "fix" our wheel, and the children formed a critical mass of squeals around our bus and the local restauranteur got confused about two blond people ordering the same meal and never brought me mine, despite asking for it thrice (I think she thought we were the same person):

When, after two hours of maintenance at the gas station, we were on the road again... I can't wait to be On the road again:

When the bus broke down again about 10 minutes later, and the sun went down, and we devised plans for saving our camera memory chips in case of a roadside mugging, and we ended up hiring local matatus to drive us the last four hours to Nairobi but they didn't know the way:

And still we smiled.


  1. What an adventure! You're such a trooper - I'm glad it turned out to be a fun/exciting birthday. xo

  2. OMG this post had me cracking up so hard!! what a lovely photographer you are and such a great writer. I am so proud of you lady! xoxo, M

  3. Martha!! Thanks for the note. You're in London already-- that's so exciting. I can't wait to hear/read all about it!

    Enjoy your travels!